Aga Cooker: a joy to cook with or a $$$ PITA?

olivesmomNovember 16, 2012

I'm still In the planning stages of our new build, focusing on the kitchen at the moment. Previously I was entertaining the idea of a open kitchen/dining/living space, though I was exploring options to solve the issues caused by an open kitchen. I've now shifted gears and now I am leaning towards a completely different floorplan, one with a much more closed off kitchen.

In addition to the floorplan being different, the house itself is quite a departure from previous floor plans we were considering. At the moment I am really liking a Williamsburg colonial style by William Poole. I still have plans to introduce a more casual, rustic, northwest sort of cabin feel, but the house definitely has a more period look to it. I'm not going for a period reproduction though. Much more casual, even transitional somewhat.

However,I really want a stove that looks appropriate. I initially fell in love with an Esse wood burning cookstove (would look so lovely placed In a large stone hearth right in the kitchen), but it would be mostly for looks and the esse ironhearts are pricey for wood stoves, plus I'm probably too lazy to deal with a real wood burning stove. I then came across the Aga cooker and I'm smitten with it! Absolutely in love! Not only is it pretty but I could use to to cook all of our meals.

Not sure what color or size, but I do love their look and I'm attracted to their quirkiness I think. I'm just wondering though, if that quirkiness will turn into hassle and if I would end up disliking this very expensive stove.

One consideration is that we are building on several acres and the lot we like does not have natural gas. I could go with propane (if say, I decide to just go the bluestar route which would probably be my second choice, maybe) but Im not sure I want to deal with propane. One alternative would be to go solar and the Aga cooker comes in an electric version that looks nearly identical to the gas version. I'm not certain, but I don't think there are any other electric stoves that have a vintage look. The whole solar thing will require a lot more research in my part, not even sure it is feasible. I do like the option though.

Oh, and it may help to know that I stay at home with my young kids and I generally cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for our family which right now consists of four people, but will likely be six in the next few years. I have the time to mess around with this sort of stove, but I don't want to end up hating it because I can't get a batch if cookies to turn out. I cook mostly from scratch. I do a lot of roasts, stews, soups and braises. I also do a fair amount saut´┐Żed and pan fried dishes. Right now I don't do a whole lot of serious baking, but I do aspire to. I cook for extended family about once a month and several times a year I host various parties. In our new home I plan to entertain quite a bit more.

One random reason I think I'd love this stove is because I think the size of the top plate (either the boiling or simmer one) would be perfect for my Le creuset 5qt braiser, which is something like 13 " across on the bottom and is really too big for my current gas range. Despite the fact that it is too large, I use it anyway with mixed results because I love how much it holds. I would LOVE to be able to use my braiser successfully.

Your thoughts on this stove? Will it be a joy to cook on, or a major pain in the rear?

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OK, I may be able help sort some of this stuff out for you.

1) Propane is not a big hassle if all you're using it for is your range. Hardly takes one of those fat snow-manish sized tanks in a single year for my 48", double-oven propane range (and I do a lot of canning, baking and cooking). I actually finally bought my own tank since the rental fees the company charged for the tank were costing more than the propane I used. Downside is that it's burning a fossil fuel.

2) Re solar: First I adore it and my husband is in the business so I naturally think everybody should get some. But you should understand from the outset that solar is usually grid-connected so if you cook at night -when the sun don't shine - you will be using grid electricty which is generated by coal, gas or nuclear, and if you live in some areas hydro and occasionally biomass. The size of a solar array to supply, even in the daylight, enough power for an electric resistance top and oven would be hefty. (Induction uses less juice because it's more efficient but still not low-wattage.) And solar, even incentivized, is not dirt cheap. It's usually about the same as paying for 8-15 years of the cost of electricty generated by the panels up front. Of course after that it's free, but it is a front-loaded cost. Some states have better financing and on-bill repayment schemes. The notion of using solar with storage batteries (completely of-grid) is still not there unless you are prepared to radically switch your power sources on may things (think kerosene or gas-fired fridge, for example). For now, grid-tied systems that are net-metered are typical. In these systems excess power produced during the day is sent into the grid and credited to your account and in most states you draw it back out at night for no extra charge. In essence you are using the power grid to "store" your excess PV production until you need it.

3) Now as to wood-cookstoves (whether AGA or other): Have you ever used wood as fuel for cooking or heating? It's not like occasionally lighting a fire in your fireplace. It's orders of magnitude more complicated and intense. I have cooked on a wood-fired cookstove here in my old farmouse and I am still heating my (northern NY) house entirely with wood, so I have a good deal of experience. Would I choose a wood-fired range, if other fuels were available? In a word: no! But I have been looking at them again lately, (I have a thread up about them) and once more decided that we are not there, yet. Of the stoves I looked at only the ECO ones seemed acceptable for me (for a variety of reasons, one being much less energy hogs than AGA, apparently). I looked at the Esse ones and they didn't ring my bells (For technical, style, safety and utility reasons). Keep in mind that most of these stoves cannot be placed in a conventionl cab/ counter run, but instead must be parked 16-24" out from the wall with that amount of clear air behind and beside them. The display pictures often omit this crucial detail. (There are some low-clearance insulated stoves among the very high end, but none I believe are no-clearance.) Wood is inherently a messy fuel, needing much more work than you may imagine. All wood-fired stoves require a substantial chimney. Many of the cooking stoves I saw were not legal in Washington state if that's where you are in the PNW. I imagine this is because of not meeting, or not even applying for, Washington state smoke particulate air quality standards test. (The Eco stoves do meet the strict DEFRA/London standards, if that matters to you.) As a rule wood-fired cooking stoves are exempt in the US from undergoing the strict air-quality testing mandated by the EPA for woodstoves. From the looks of them, I'm guessing many of the wood cookstoves would have pretty bad numbers. Whether you care about your neighbors' air quality, or not, having a dirty-burning stove near your house, especially one that is expected to burn all year when you might have at least some windows open or be outside means you'll be sucking that stuff into your own lungs. There is a strong movement to ban all wood-burning appliances entirely due to air-quality issues in some areas. Some of this concern may be misplaced as there are vastly different emmissions from different burners, but it is not completely a fanciful issue, either. (My personal take on this is that if you choose to burn wood for heat or cooking your moral reponsibility is to seek out the cleanest-burning stove you can possibly afford. And cost does make a difference here, in general terms. And then you have to burn it correctly and thoughtfully.)

4) Re Aga-type stoves: I have cooked on a coal-fired AGA so I have some experience living with one of these "always-on" stoves. There are pros and cons. The chief one is that they are somewhat wasteful of fuels unless you can use the steady, but modest, boost of heat they give off 24/7. Fine in most parts of the UK, and to the extent where the PNW mimics that cold, dampish, rainy UK climate steadily throughout the year, it would be a plus. But it's a completely different way of cooking. Some say yielding tastier results, something I didn't see with either the coal-fired AGA or when I cooked on my wood cookstove. I would urge you to find owners and ask to cook on their ranges before you take the plunge if you've got no experience with them.

5) Re styling: In "Williamsburg" houses an open hearth (firelace with hanging kettle and spit) was the only period style. Most ranges which aren't frank modern boxes have a semi-Victorian-ish retro style, sort of post-Civil-War to 1890-ish look to them. My wood cookstove from the late 19th c looks authentic because it is. English AGA-style stoves have unique British look to them. That might go OK with a Craftsman-esque look.

6) Re an all-electric AGA: (even with solar juice) This is paying a premium for a faux nostalgic look. I don't have a problem with using electricity to cook on, but I think you could get more for your money by bypassing an AGA-style hulk factory simply retro-fitted to all-electric. Some electric components may be fine, for instance one of the ECO stoves comes with an optional induction top/oven unit (mad by Siemens) for use during warm months. But if you opted for a conventional looking induction top (or range) with electric wall oven(s) and instead put the saved money into more solar, you'd be ahead in the end.

My advice:

1) Get solar no matter what as it is a step in the right direction;

2) Choose a standard propane-burning range or cooktop. But choose a smaller-than-you-need model and augment it with:

3) Some induction burners (or a small induction range) so you can benefit from the solar you're making and hedge your fuel comsumption;

4) Think of your kitchen and housebuilding plans with the possibility that at some point you may needto switch to a wood-burning cooker: think of chimney placement, cab re-design, etc.

5) By all means check out any opportunity to use a solid-fuel type stove. The more experience you have, the better.

6) Keep in mind that the sustainable firewood yield from an actively and well-managed forest is relatively small, about 1/4 to 1/3 cord/year. When I was cooking with wood, that use alone consumed about 2 to 3+ cords, and I didn't use it in the summer. So I would need 8 - 10 acres of forest to supply the wood just to cook. It takes a lot of time and work to process firewood. (But it keeps ya skinny!)

Now as for cooking types: you can do anything on a solid-fuel range that you can do on any other kind of stove. Whether it works the same way, particularly for high-temp stove-top type of cooking is another matter. Modern cooking styles which emphasize high-temp, stir-fries, wokking, searing, are the ones that are the most challenging for solid fuel ranges, because solid fuel lacks the ability to quickly turn up, or return to heat. It's not surprising that the BTU race in gas burners has coincided with bringing out the inner TV-chef out in all of us. The hot tops of solid fuel ranges are controlled by the fuel burning in the firebox and they are definitely not instant UP. Your large Le creuset pot would do fine on one of the higher-end gas ranges/cooktops out there (BS, Wolfe, Capitol, etc.) My 20 year old ggas pro-range would be fine for it - I have one that size so this is my own experience speaking. OTOH the cooking surface of the solid-fuel range which while it might match the diameter of the pot may not do any better because its potential heat transfer capacity is limited by the fire already burning in fire box which csn't be adjusted quickly. I found baking, roasts, stews, braises, etc. to be indistinguishable with wood vs gas. And as I said I never, ever, found that "food tasted better". That's just romantic nostalgia or propaganda in my view. If your food is properly prepared it tastes good, no matter how you heat it. What was different was the considerable amount of planning and thinking involved in turning out the meal. For instance on the AGA you don't turn the oven temps down or up, you actually move the dish from one oven to the other. This takes some experience to learn. Baking (breads, cookies, etc.) take slightly more effort to learn, but nothing extraordinarily hard. I find all ovens take some getting used to. If you were really into fine-pastry style baking I think you would find the slightly lumbering temperature reactions with solid-fuel ovens harder. (I.e. There are some baked things that rely on a higher temp to start that is immediately turned down. That kind of flashy baking techniques don't work with AGA-type stoves.) Food preservation (i.e. canning) especially with a pressure canner on a wood/coal-fired range is, quite frankly, a nightmare. I have done it, but it is very, very hard to do with the accuracy needed to assure food-safety. (You could get gas or electric resistance powered hot plates for this use if needed, but I preferred to have a range that would accomplish what I needed from the start. Unfortunately induction doesn't work with most canning pots.)

There are a couple of people here with AGA ranges, but I believe they are all gas-fired models. One I know has a summer module so she doesn't have it on all-year (in CT, I think.) I hope they chime in as their experience will be useful to hear.

One final thing: don't get caught up in fake historical "authenticity" regarding your range styling. Throughout time people have eagerly adopted the newest cooking technology models, so a modern stove is not out of place, even in a house with more traditional styling. I'd choose something that cooks well for you, and fuel it with something that looks like it will be available for the near to medium future. My own house was built before the Civil War, though in an even-then nostalgic early 19th c style, always has had stoves for heating and cooking, never any open hearths. Even in 1840s they were eagerly seeking the latest mod cons.

I hope all this info-dump helps you work things out in a
useful way.

Above all, I really, really hope you'll consider some PV for your new house. It really is the nuts. Don't think that even if you don't have the space or $$ or climate for providing all of your electrical needs that it's a bust. Do what you can and you'll feel great about that. I love getting up in the morning and seeing my little readout showing how much power my arrays are already making. It's the first, and last, thing I look at every day.


PS: As I proofed this I reread your original post. It appears you have young children. Almost all of the stoves, but especially the ons billed as room or house-heaters pose considerable surface contact burn issue for rug rats. The more the stove is billed as a "house-heating" model, the hotter the sides will be. Since that's how the heating is done. The sides can easily be 200-500F - hot enough to melt your skin right off, instantly. You might need to have your stove fenced off for safety. Stoves with low-clearance-to-combustible distances will be more insulated, but conversely less able to heat a space. We have a stupid cat that keeps jumping up on our woodstove and finally we have had to put a four-foot high fence around it. Ugly and a pain when tending the stove, but better than injuring her and paying very high vet bills. Over 40 years of woodburning, mostly with top loading stoves, I have acquired a little web of burn scars on my right wrist. Once a doctor saw them and asked if was a "cutter".

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 8:57PM
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Wow, Liriodendron- thank you so much for your very throrough response!

I definitely plan to look into solar. This new home will be our forever house, so I'm hoping we will be in it 40+ years. Therefore the front loaded cost should be worth it, though I do worry about the lifespan of solar panels. It seems most have warranties 20 years or less. There's a lot to research, and to be honest I find it a bit overwhelming. Especially when I start thinking about heating, hot water, what fuel for the range, etc. So many things to consider.

As far as the stove, the main thing is I want a beautiful and well performing range in my kitchen. I want my shiny, and colorful range to greet me every time I walk into my kitchen. I've thought about induction and I'm sure I'd like cooking on it and I know I'd love the easy clean up, but I don't see how an induction cooktop would look right in this kitchen. I get what you mean about the constant technological upgrades in the kitchen, it's just that an induction cooktop looks so space age. I love all things vintage (even if it's fake) and while an aga defiantly isn't colonial, it seems to look more appropriate to me.

I've fallen hard for the Aga, however it's price is a huge drawback. Plus, I know in my head that it probably isn't all that practical. In the floorplan we are looking at there's a pretty good spot for a large stone hearth in between the kitchen and dining nook. I could install a nice, average priced wood stove there, slap a tea kettle on top and I'd think it would satisfy my need for old-timey style. I could then install a bluestar, or whatever range, in the kitchen proper and still be thousands less then the aga alone. But then I watch another aga YouTube video and I'm back to square one. We shall see.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 9:51PM
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Yes, this: (in spades)

I could install a nice, average-priced wood stove there, slap a tea kettle on top and I'd think it would satisfy my need for old-timey style. I could then install a bluestar, or whatever range, in the kitchen proper and still be thousands less then the aga alone.

That's what I was saying. There are certainly places where an AGA would be the right choice (if you knew you liked cooking on them.) I think the all-electric AGA is probably the least useful because it's basically a "pretend" version of the cooking method, substituting a completely different power source inside the shell of the AGA.

Don't give up on induction. An induction cooktop doesn't have to have a space age look. Some just appear to be another counter top surface. It's grand for slow cooking things in cast-iron cookware like Le creuset. Unlike gas you can just set it and it will keep on at the correct level more or less indefinitely. (Some models do have time-limited burners for safety, OTOH, some have timed autoshutoffs which are also cool.) You could combine (for instance) a smaller (all-gas) BS (or other brand) range, add a smooth induction section to your cooktop beside it for additional hob space. If you need a second oven, then get one of the Speed Ovens, or something with some of the sdvanced baking methods for a wall oven. Then you'd have the best of both worlds, plain jane, powerful, unfussy gas range, and the energy efficiency of induction and all the bells and whistles of the new tech baking.

Keep separate in your mind the difference between choosing a fuel source (gas, electric, wood, or coal) from the choice of an AGA-style thermal mass stove. One is a fuel, the other is method of heat delivery. For instance my cast iron cooker burns wood, but while it uses thermal mass to retain and store heat for baking, it is not essentially a thermal-mass cooker. It sheds a lot of heat into the room.

Before choosing a thermal mass stove (of whatever style, there are some very Scandinavian modern looking ones) make a big effort to experience cooking on one. Even a chance to spend a holiday in a self-keeping cottage in England with one of these stoves would teach you about them. I expect you'll be able to turn up someone you can visit closer than half-way around the world.

Now for a crash course on solar. (And though my DH works in this field we're in NY so I'm not trying to sell you anything.)

The warranty on all good solar panels is 25 years (90% rated production up to 10 years, and no less than 80% rated capacity ate 25.) At 25 years the panels don't stop working, they just are not guaranteed to be producing as much juice as when new (they decline a fraction of a percent per year). Choose a brand that has been making panels for a longer time. (Hint: some Chinese manufacturuers have been in business only a year or two.) Our own panels are Sharps, made in Japan. I just asked my DH and he recommends Sunpower panels as having the best warranty (and warranty/replacement service) and long experience making PV stuff, i.e. longer than they warranty their panels for. I happen to like the looks of our Sharps better than Sunpower, and as our are on ground-mounted panels, I see them every day, so that was a factor for us. You can choose to buy your own equipment and own all the power it produces, or in most areas, find people who will install it and share the power produced with you. These are the "zero down" offers you see. Personally we liked to own it, so we are adding to our arrays as we go. That and because my DH is an inventor so we can't have simple off-the-shelf equipment, we have to have "improvements" to the standard.

The power produced is indistinguishable from the power that comes from the electric company, indeed as I mention it flows on to them if you're not using it. It does not provide power in event of a power outage, though. The reason is that if your panels made power during a power outage and it flowed back out into the grid it would risk electrocuting linemen who were working on a supposedly de-energized line. There are some battery back-up systems available that can piggy-back on to a PV system for power outages, but they don't supply all your power, just a few critical circuits like water pump, furnace circulator, etc. Totally off-grid systems use DC, not AC, and require completely different appliances for everything in the house. If you're not really far away from the grid, they are generally not practical.

PV panels are dead-stupid easy to run once installed. They just sit up, or out, there making juice whenever there's enough light. Ours even make a tiny amount of measureable power on full-moon nights.

Here's two fun facts I use when people ask me about solar: every square yard of the earth has a solar production capacity of 150 watts in full sunlight (that's using currently available technology, more will available as technology improves). And the energy arrives fresh from the sun in a little over 8 minutes, every second of every day. And it burns no carbon-based fuel, it's free and it will be there forever.

One final tip: If you get a woodstove, or wood cookstove, be sure to get one with a dedicated outside (combustion) air connection. It simplifies your life when it comes time installing a cooking vent hood as it makes it safe to run these wood-burners and the exhaust fan at the same time since they don't share the same air space.

Did you see the ECO stoves I linked to in the other thread? (Do a search on my user name, I have a call-out to Lavendar Lass in the title.) The cost of those ranges is under 6K pounds. They seem cheaper, and as good or better than AGA, and it appears they will sell into the US.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 11:41PM
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Okay, I must chime in here. We have an old remodeled farmhouse and the Aga is just the right fit! It makes me happy to see it every morning! I love the look of it, the ease of use, the always ready ovens and the warmth it exudes on a cold winter's day! The first place my grandkids head when they come in is to the Aga! They like to back right into it when they are cold and no one has got burned from the experience! We put our boots in front of it to warm and our jackets on a chair in front of it to dry. I hang wet towels, sweaters, mitts and whatever else I need to over the rail across the front. Since our kitchen is big with cathedral ceilings, what little heat it gives off is not a problem. I do turn it down on the hottest summer days since we do a lot of grilling outside at that time.

As far as cooking: We do have a gas fired four oven Aga and I did not find it a "completely different way of cooking". It is different in the fact that you use the ovens 80% of the time and the hobs 20% of the time whereas it is the opposite with a regular stove, but that is no big deal. I do not rotate my food from oven to oven as some think you must in order to cook it properly. I do move finished foods into the warming oven until all is ready to serve. That is a feature that I love! My cookies come out perfectly fantastic. I make bread all the time and I do it no differently than I did in my old conventional stove. I have canned tomatoes and made jellies on it with no difficulty at all. The learning curve here is not all that difficult. I use the simmering oven to make steel cut oatmeal that is perfect when you wake in the morning. I melt my butter and chocolates and whatever else on the warming plate without it splattering as it can in the microwave. I do feel my meats come out more tender and juicier with the Aga, especially if you are using the simmering oven and cooking a roast as you would in a slow cooker. (That is another appliance which I no longer need!) I do not feel that this is propaganda or nostalgia since guests have commented on the fact. I absolutely love the four ovens and the convenience of having them ready to use at any time. I no longer need a toaster that takes up room on the counter or in a cabinet. Since I only used my microwave for heating up coffee, leftovers and melting butter, I have now moved that to my pantry and I use the Aga instead.

I would think you might look into the cost of the propane heat which would keep the Aga at an even temperature vs. trying to regulate it with wood. Just my thought though. I do understand that you do not have access to natural gas. I am not savy on the prices of running the Aga with other heat sources, such as propane or electric. Wood does seem like it would be more of a hassle.

As far as cost, I know they are expensive but if you can afford it, it is worth every penny in my experience. I was lucky enough to pick up a store demo for a very good price. I believe there is a site online where you can buy used and refurbished Agas. Also, watch Ebay or Craig's list or even put an add in the paper if you decide to go with the Aga. Last year I even went to a moving sale where the people were selling one!

As far as solar, we looked into solar panels for heating the house but it was not cost effective for us. It takes many years to re-coup your investment, so unless you are fairly young and are going to stay in that house for many years, I would not consider it. It is not cheap to set up a solar system.

Good luck with your decision! I will be following to see how you fair!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 1:31AM
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I am sorry if I left the impression that an AGA has a serious burn potential. I didn't mean to and I guess I wasn't as clear as I meant to be. Aga-style stoves are one of the low-clearance stoves I was trying to separate out from the other woodburning cookstoves like the Esse, and sheet metal or cast iron cooking stoves. Those are the ones that can burn your skin in a flash because their surface temps are so much hotter.

When I used a coal-fired AGA (and a very old one at that because it was in the UK) I found I had a good deal of trouble organising my cooking plans to accomodate the stove's way of cooking. I had trouble with the idea of putting things I would usually have cooked on top of the stove into an oven, instead. I managed, but I found it awkward. Perhaps one of the differences between my experience and yours is that a gas-powered AGA has a smoother firing curve than a solid-fuel model burning either coal or wood. That's because you have to manage the fire, as a first - and continuing job - in addition to coping with the stove. Gas is always there and available continuosly from the orifices; coal or wood you have add, and stir up by yourself. I only used the coal AGA for about 6 months and I wasn't at all sorry to leave it behind when we left that house.

I have much more experience with a woodburning (but non-AGA style) stove. It was a completely different experience because it isn't a thermal mass range like an AGA. In this case the difficulty is completely related to the fuel - and kindling and regulating the fire itself. It's even trickier in an ordinary wood cookstove, than with an AGA, since non-thermal mass stoves, even heavy cast iron behemoths like mine, are not designed to cook primarily with latent or stored heat like an AGA. It was on this cookstove that I had the most maddening and ultimately dissappointing results from trying to can. While I could eke out a safe water-bath processing. I never could manage a safe, meaning never falling off pressure for the entire period of 30-90mins for a pressure-canner cycle. I tried and tried and tried. It was a bitter disappointment for me at the time because I had such high hopes.

I take my hat off to anyone who can successfully pressure can on a wood stove, of any kind. I think you could pretty easily process a waterbath canner on a gas-fired AGA, and perhaps a small-to medium sized pressure canner. I'm not sure if it has the BTU/hr output to do that efficiently though, especially for the large pressure vessels I use.

My wood cookstove bakes well, roasts well, fries well, if somewhat slowly (I've never tried something needing really high heat like a wok because I wouldn't want to stand next to the hot top for that), keeps things warm, toasts my bread, melts butter, clabbers my cheese, etc. It just takes way more attention than my current pro-style gas-fired range to do those tasks. Perhaps I'm not seeing much difference in taste because I still use the same cast iron dutch ovens and clay and stone pots with my gas range as I did with the woodstove. I've never owned a crock pot or a slow cooker so I have no idea how they operate.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 3:05AM
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Here's an old link I dredged out re garding AGA stoves.

This one has a good sorting out of the various kinds of AGA-beasts, though info on prices and models may be dated since it was in 2010. It also includes the opening chapters of Quiltgirl's frustrating installation saga.

Here is a link that might be useful: old AGA thread

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 3:51AM
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Liriodendron, Oh Yes! My installation was frustrating! I would not wish that on anyone! The situation was rectified thanks to a poster here on this site for which I am eternally grateful! I almost gave up on my Aga, but am so glad for the intervention and the help from the company. Fortunately the frustration was with the installer and not the stove itself!

I can understand your comments with the use of a wood burning stove. Seems like it would have some getting used to for regulating an even temperature in the unit. Gas or electric would provide a more consistent stream of heat.

I have gotten burned with the Aga, but not from anything on the outside of it. It is usually because I have put a pan with a handle in the ovens and forgot to grab a mitt when I touched the handles!

I do find doing more in the ovens than on top frees up my time at the stove. I find it more efficient since I now no longer spend as much time standing over the burners. I find the difference in meats to be that they are not as "dry" as they were in my conventional oven. I attribute that to the Aga being one large crock pot. I like to throw pot roast and veggies in the simmering oven in the morning and forget it till suppertime. Works like a crock pot. I like the fact that I can put oatmeal along with milk, a little vanilla and butter and a dash of salt in the simmering oven at night and have it be just perfect in the a.m. It is a different way of cooking as far as that goes, but I did not find it more difficult. I just had to raise my awareness of how to use the unit more efficiently.

The one thing I have had a problem with is cakes. The 9 x 13 pan cakes sink somewhat in the center. I also check them when it gets close to finish time. I do rotate them towards the mid end of cooking. I also had that problem with my old stove, so I am thinking it is me doing something wrong in the process. I do check the doneness of foods as I am cooking in the ovens. But then I did that "BA" too. (before Aga) I guess I did not think too much about how to use the Aga and I just jumped in and started cooking like I always did. Our library had a book sale and I picked up a cookbook written by Amy Wilcock for Aga users for a dollar. It has some helpful tips in it so will have to invest in her other cookbooks as well. One thing I learned was to bring your potatoes to a boil on the hot plate for four minutes, drain the pan and stick it in the simmering oven while you make the rest of your meal. Potatoes come out moist and yummy! (No water boiling over because I got side tracked!)

I am hoping other Aga users will post their experiences. It would be nice to hear how they adapted to the stove and if they have any regrets.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Quiltgirl, it's great to see you back here again! I well remember the difficulty you were having with proper installation of your classic Aga Cooker, but I never knew of your final resolution. So glad to hear everything finally worked out well. It's especially good to see your recent posts in which you've made it very clear that you're quite pleased with your Aga (like every other classic Aga owner on these boards that I've known of through the years). As you know, I own the pro-style, dual fuel Aga 6-4 and not the traditional Cooker. So, although, I've tried here and there to help others understand the workings and performance of the Cooker, I've never felt totally comfortable about giving advice on that unit. Now that you're here again, I'm certain your sharing of your direct experiences and expertise with the Aga Cooker will go a long, long way in helping others to learn more about this frequently-misunderstood-yet-wonderful British cooking machine. Congratulations and welcome back!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 11:38AM
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Sophie Wheeler

I think the actual difference in cooking between an classic Aga and other style ranges comes down to whether you want your cooking equipment to be responsive to your requests, or whether or not you are willing to adapt your style of cooking to the way that the Aga can cook your meals. Is your range an appliance to you, or, are you an appliance to your range. Whom exactly is the demanding one setting the parameters of the cooking experience? If you want an instantaneous response to needing to turn the heat down on something you are cooking, do you want to just turn a dial, or do you want to have to move the pot off the hot spot to a cooler spot? That's kinda it in a nutshell. I'm a high heat junkie, and I demand responsiveness. I don't find that creating workarounds to how something cooks at all appealing. I want it to adapt to me, not me to adapt to it. That's too much like settling for $100 "artisan" carob coated peanuts when what you really want is $10 dark chocolate covered pecans that you make yourself.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 12:35PM
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Hollysprings, the images called up by your post keep reverberating in my head. Loved your comments! What an interesting, eloquent and so very funny way to describe your style and standards in identifying a great cooking appliance. In fact, your post actually prompted me to re-imagine my whole vision of who buys what and why when it comes to cooking appliances. In your case, I'm seeing a hot, young chick, helmeted, booted and alighting from a motorcycle, striding into a super mod and sleek kitchen, setting a pot of something on a burner, turning the knob with a flourish and then daring the machine to blast off at the shout of "go!" In contrast, I'm now seeing the classic Aga owner as a "mature", rounder, slower, warmer, and very relaxed cook in the old farmhouse, shuttling over to the stove, shoving her pot in an oven and then going on to tend to other business (like gathering the eggs from the chickens, perhaps?) LOL. Both mental snapshots are gross stereotypes, of course. I don't doubt that the classic Aga market segments are much broader and varied than the simple one I just envisioned. But again, it was the style of your post which prompted that vision, made me think about my own demands in choosing a cooking appliance . . and it all made me laugh. Thanks!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 2:39PM
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I know it's been briefly mentioned: the "always on" aspect. I know many people in the UK who have AGAs - and while they like them, they ALL turn them off in the summer and use a regular range at that time. Even the ones in big stone houses. Even in that climate (and it's getting warmer!) it's too hot to have the thing on all year around. And too expensive.

I never see anyone mention it either, but there is a huge backlash in the UK against people buying AGAs and their equivalents, on environmental grounds. Fuel consumption is a major concern in Europe, whether oil or gas or wood or whatever: it all produces greenhouse gases, whether in your chimney or at the power station. Having something that is always using fuel is just seen as wasteful.

I'm not trying to put you off, because obviously it's an entirely personal choice, but if environmental issues are the least concern to you, I would suggest you look into what contribution an "always on" range makes, especially when there are such excellent alternatives.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 4:51PM
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The only issue I have with the "always on" aspect is the cost. Propane will be expensive i think and I'm not sure how the electric version compares performace-wise to the gas models.

As to the environmental issue, apparently human existence is detrimental to the earth and I, for one, will not live my life apologizing for being born. I intend to enjoy my life and if an Aga makes me happy, then so be it.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 6:43PM
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Olivesmom: You go girl! I am right with you! I hope you can find a source of energy that will allow you to love an Aga! . I guess you could put up a windmill if you had an extra million laying around, or a solar system that would capture the sun's warmth. (Neither cost effective unfortunately!) In the meantime, you go for what makes you happy!

Sara the brit: Since losing fuel is just "wasteful", we better dump our cars, water heaters, dryers, furnaces and whatever else is environmentally damaging! Seriously, when an alternative energy source is affordable for the average Joe Blow, I am sure we all will get on the train. In the meantime, since we Americans like to have a hot shower at night, heat in our homes and gas in our cars to get to work, we will continue to use whatever heat source is available to us. That includes gas for my Aga which comes from the same gas line that fed my old conventional stove. Since environmental alternatives are not yet available, I am with Olivesmom. Also, everyone does not turn their Agas off in the summer. I personally just turn mine down where it uses no more energy than the pilot light on your conventional gas stove.
Also, just a note on cost for the gas model we have in our area: roughly thirty dollars per month. People spend more on one meal going out to eat, so sorry, but no apologies here.

Marthavila: I could not have said it better! And I do have chicks!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 7:21PM
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We are cooking on our third aga (kept changing houses, unfortunately), and I really like cooking on it, obviously. It is very forgiving, cooking in the ovens cuts down on the mess and is much easier, and the constant heat levels means cooking is more about following a set routine than constantly checking. For this third aga we replaced the warming plate with a pair of burners -- seemed like a good idea, since we could turn the stove off in the summer and use the burners. We have never used them in the five years we have had the stove, winter or summer (have not turned off the stove for the summer yet either), so did not turn out to be such a great idea after all.

While the Aga can seem wasteful, the solar idea is interesting. First of all, the intent behind the electric aga is to use cheap electricity at night and cook off the stored heat during the day -- no need to run the Aga off of batteries, with the Aga time of fuel consumption and time of cooking can be different -- seems like a solar aga would be the reverse, storing heat during the day, and cooking whenever. In England they have aga-like stoves with water heater attachments -- you might investigate whether you can use solar to preheat your stove directly rather than via electricity -- it will be much more efficient -- and it would sort of be like running a water heater version in reverse. And you have in-house solar expertise! The goal would be to reduce the gas usage in a gas aga, for example.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 10:41AM
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